Too knackered to cook a fancy supper? A stunning summer salad from award-winning food writer Diana Henry
Having one of those days when ‘make dinner’ is just one of 8 million things on your to-do list? Totally run out of ideas? Yup, us too. But help is at hand, as we tap up our favourite cooks to inspire us with a nifty new dish (because there’s only so much pasta and pesto a girl can eat). And to kick off this new section we welcome the wonderful, award-winning food writer Diana Henry into the Muddy kitchen (not literally sadly, now that would be exciting)…
Summer is not the time for making complicated food. Heat slows the brain. Our appetites are fickle as well; we aren’t sure what we want to eat. Even the keenest cooks have days when a tomato salad is the most they can muster (and there ’s nothing wrong with that, it ’s one of the best dishes of the summer). On the other hand, you want to give friends something they aren’t making for themselves at home (so not that tomato salad). Try this instead:
Roast tomatoes, fennel & chickpeas with preserved lemons & honey (serves 6)
for the tomatoes
10 large plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons regular olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1½ tablespoons harissa
2 teaspoons caster sugar
sea salt flakes and freshly ground
for the fennel
2 large fennel bulbs
juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon fennel seeds,
coarsely crushed in a mortar
generous pinch of chilli flakes
2½ tablespoons extra virgin
400g can of chickpeas, drained
for the dressing
2 small preserved lemons, plus
2 teaspoons juice from the jar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons runny honey
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped coriander
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
Halve the tomatoes lengthways and lay in a single layer in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish. Mix the regular olive oil, balsamic vinegar and harissa and pour this over the tomatoes, tossing to coat well, then turn the tomatoes cut sides up. Sprinkle with the sugar and season.
Quarter the fennel bulbs, cut off the stalks and remove any coarse outer leaves. Pull off any tender fronds (reserve these) and cut each piece of fennel into 2.5cm- 1in-) thick wedges, keeping them intact at the base. Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice (it stops them discolouring). Add the garlic, fennel seeds, chilli and extra virgin olive oil, then season and turn everything over with your hands. Spread out the fennel in a second roasting tin and cover tightly with foil.
Put both trays in the oven. Roast the fennel for 25–30 minutes, until tender (the undersides should be pale gold), then remove the foil and roast for another 5–10 minutes, or until soft, golden and slightly charred. Roast the tomatoes for 35–40 minutes, or until caramelized in patches and slightly shrunken. Stir the chickpeas into the fennel and taste for seasoning. Leave both to cool to room temperature.
Now make the dressing. Discard the flesh from the preserved lemons and cut the rind into dice. Whisk the wine vinegar with the preserved lemon juice, honey and extra virgin olive oil, season and add the lemon rind and coriander. Taste for seasoning and sweet-sour balance.
Arrange the fennel, chickpeas and tomatoes on a platter, adding all the juices from the roasting tins; there might be quite a bit from the tomatoes. Scatter any fennel fronds you reserved over the top. Spoon on the dressing, or serve it on the side.
How to Eat a Peach: menus, stories and places by Diana Henry is published by Mitchell Beazley, £25 (www.octopusbooks.co.uk)